Penn State and Rutgers join massive open online course movement

Screenshot of Penn classes being offered on the Coursera's website.

The flagship state schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey announced steps on Thursday to begin offering open online courses to the masses.

Both Pennsylvania State University and Rutgers University said they were partnering with Coursera - a California-based online education company that has been a pioneer in Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs.

They join a growing number of universities around the country, including the University of Pennsylvania, that have begun to experiment with the movement to provide courses for free to hundreds of thousands around the globe.

"These are exciting and rapidly changing times for higher education," Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said in a prepared statement. “Using massive open online courses, Rutgers will join our peer institutions in the U.S. and around the world in providing boundless access to top flight instruction in the numerous disciplines where Rutgers excels. Our hope is that some of these thousands of students will go on to apply to our online or on-campus degree programs.”

Coursera previously partnered with 33 universities, including Penn. Rutgers and Penn State are part of another 29 universities to join the movement.

Penn State will start by putting five courses online: Introduction to Art, Maps and the Geospatial Revolution, Creativity, Innovation and Change, Energy, the Environment and Our Future, and Epidemics: the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, the university said in a press release.

Anyone interested can enroll by going to the website: The classes have different start dates, beginning with Introduction to Art on May 27 and ending with epidemics on Oct. 15.

Rutgers will start with three courses:

  • Analyzing the Universe, a science course created in partnership with NASA and Harvard led by Rutgers professor Terry Matilsky.
  • Soul Beliefs, an interdisciplinary review of beliefs about the soul, with professors Len Hamilton and Dan Ogilvie.
  • The Future of Humankind, led by James Martin in partnership with other faculty.

Rutgers’ courses will start in the fall, a spokesman said.

Some courses have attracted tens of thousands, but a much smaller percentage of those actually stick with the course all the way through.

Penn earlier this month announced it was in the forefront of a movement to have the courses count for credit.

The American Council on Education - a national higher education umbrella group - has given its credit endorsement to five open online courses taught by professors at Penn, Duke University, and the University of California, Irvine, and offered by Coursera.

It's the first time that ACE has given credit recommendation to MOOCs.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq